Task force to present recommendation to Sunset Hills panel

Group finalizes its work for area affected by tornado.

By MIKE ANTHONY

The Sunset Hills Residential Recovery Task force has completed its work and will present its recommendation next month to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

Task force members voted unanimously last week to recommend the Planning and Zoning Commission vote to amend the city’s comprehensive master plan to allow for both single-family residences and attached housing on Court Drive and West Watson Road west of South Lindbergh Boulevard — similar to the nearby Courtyards of Sunset Hills, which has both single-family homes and attached villas. Chairman James Williams and members Bob Baer and Drew Stitz were absent from the Aug. 10 meeting.

The comprehensive master plan currently permits single-family residential in the area. A public hearing would have to be conducted before the Planning and Zoning Commission could consider voting to amend the comprehensive plan.

The Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7, at City Hall, 3939 S. Lindbergh Blvd., to consider the task force’s recommendation regarding the residential redevelopment of the area that was devastated by the New Year’s Eve tornado that swept through the city.

Mayor Bill Nolan established the task force after the Planning and Zoning Commission voted June 1 to reject an amendment to change the comprehensive master plan to provide for commercial and attached-unit residential uses of the area. The proposed amendment would have encompassed all property on Court Drive not already designated for commercial use, the first six properties along the north side of West Watson Road west of South Lindbergh Blvd. and 3851 and 3863 S. Lindbergh Blvd.

More than 20 people addressed the commission during the June 1 public hearing with the vast majority of speakers opposed to changing the plan.

Since their first official meeting June 21, task force members have been discussing the concept of a Courtyards-type redevelopment of the area. The panel met with two developers — Mike Borzillo, president of general contractor A.J. Borzillo Inc., and Mike Kuehnle of Kuehnle Construction, whose company built residences in the Courtyards during the final phase of the subdivision’s construction.

Kuehnle said a similar concept “could work” for the tornado-damaged area. Like Kuehnle, Borzillo agreed the idea was “feasible.” He said he’d be willing to work with the city, property owners and even other developers on a residential redevelopment plan.

Borzillo did, however, express concern about building new homes next to ones that are decades old. Kuehnle said for him or another developer to proceed, the Planning and Zoning Commission would have to be convinced to increase the density of the area by changing the comprehensive master plan to allow for attached villa homes.

The roughly 10-acre site currently is zoned R-2 single-family residential with a 20,000-square-foot minimum lot size. The task force’s recommendation includes two maps — one designating the area affected by the tornado and a second designating the recovery area that encompasses the panel’s recommendation.

The recovery area excludes two commercial properties on South Lindbergh Boulevard — 3819 S. Lindbergh Blvd., the site of Telle Tire & Auto Services, and 3825 S. Lindbergh Blvd., the site of the former SSM Imaging Center, which since has been demolished. Also excluded from the recovery area are two properties currently zoned residential but designated as commercial in the comprehensive master plan — 12415 Court Drive and 12410 Chrisann Lane. Included in the recovery area at property owner John Beaury’s request is 12418 Chrisann Lane.

During last week’s meeting, Vice Chairman Frank Pellegrini, who chaired the meeting in Williams’ absence, said he was informed by City Attorney Robert C. Jones that the task force’s recommendation must be presented to Nolan.

Pellegrini said, “… For the record and as I understand the procedure that needs to be followed, our recommendation will go to the mayor of the city of Sunset Hills and then upon his invitation we will present to whoever, including (the Planning and Zoning Commission) …”

Task force members then finalized their recommendation, which includes:

• “… The existing Sunset Hills comprehensive master plan be amended to designate the entire ‘recovery area’ for only residential single-family housing and/or a Courtyards-style — PD-RC (Planned Development-Residential Cluster) development, or a combination of both. There will be no consideration given for expansion of commercial development into the ‘recovery area.’

• “That present property owners be required to repair, renovate and/or demolish uninhabitable structures and substructures — foundations, et cetera — cut weeds and grass, remove rubble, (and) grade and seed in accordance with applicable city ordinances as soon as possible.

• “That qualified developers be invited to submit redevelopment plans for the ‘recovery area’ that will be similar in style to the Courtyards development, single family or a combination of both. In no case should the development include any high-rise structures, apartments or condos. In any development plan, neither the use of eminent domain nor tax credits shall be considered, used or offered.

• “That the local lending institutions be invited to participate as partners or otherwise in the redevelopment plan and offer to qualified property owners and developers appropriate lending for either approved redevelopment or the rebuilding, repair or renovation of their properties in the ‘affected area.’

• “That the market should dictate the purchase or selling price of any property and the sole responsibility for selling shall remain with the seller in private negotiations with any prospective buyer. Any redevelopment plan will not infringe on any resident who wishes to remain in an existing home and not participate in any redevelopment plan.”

Task force members also agreed that the city should cooperate with qualified developers proposing the redevelopment of the recovery area, that any change to the comprehensive master plan for the area shall not be considered precedential for other areas of the city and that dialogue and input from property owners must continue on an ongoing basis.

The finalized recommendation was presented to Nolan, who was at the meeting. He reviewed the panel’s recommendation and thanked members for their work.

“… When we met the first time in June to talk informally about what we were going to be doing and what your goals were, what was going to be accomplished, I was immediately impressed when you offered to meet weekly. And I think you’ve done an incredible job in a very short period of time.

“I would ask in light of the fact that it’s uncommon and not customary for the mayor to address the Planning and Zoning committee with particular proposals or recommendations, I would like to ask if you would be so kind as a final action of the task force to attend the September meeting of Planning and Zoning and present the report that you submitted to me today.”

Pellegrini said, “I think we would be happy to do that. We already have people that have volunteered …”